Jose Miguel Arguelles

Book Author and Teacher

Ateneo de Zamboanga University High School 1995

Briefly describe the work that you do now.

Right now, I am the head of the English Unit at Philippine Science High School Main Campus at Diliman, Quezon City. From time to time, I get projects with the Department of Education, and most recently the Cultural Center of the Philippines for which I helped draft twenty-five short essays for its upcoming expanded Encyclopedia. I have also written two textbooks, and of course, my short story collection "Our Darkest Hours" published by Visprint.

 

Why did you choose to do what it is that you are doing now?

It was mostly by accident as my original course - Electrical Engineering - at UP Diliman wasn't suited for me. So I moved to Education (still at UP) which many people thought as odd. But actually, I was a member of the Ateneo Catechetical Instructions League from 1992-1995. I had been exposed to the teaching life already and I liked it. As for the writing, since grade school, I had been making comics (they were bad) for my classmates' entertainment. When I rediscovered my passion for writing when I became a teacher, I took Creative Writing for my Master's Degree.

 

Briefly describe your creative process.

I really don't have a process. I just like observing people and reading the news. I would then form ideas for stories about the things and people I come across. I wouldn't commit them to paper unless I knew I had something for them. It's only when I can see clearly how to get a character from point A to point B that I start writing usually in the early hours of dawn.

 

What do you hope to achieve with what you do now?

I do hope that Filipinos would get more invested in reading Filipino authors. I used to be snooty then about Filipino writers, until I had to teach them. And when you invest time and effort in anything, you get to slowly love your own. I do hope to get my book (and subsequent ones) out in the international market. Also hoping Zamboanga City will have a full time and decent bookstore.

 

What is the relationship between your work now and what you studied in ADZU?

It's quite different studying under Jesuits who actually value education and open minds over other sectarian schools. It's really difficult to point out the relationships, but most of them have to do with the material selection. I use bits and pieces of my time in ADZU and Zamboanga City for my stories. In each of them, I try to highlight the fact that humanism - an important lesson from ADZU - is an intrinsic part of what makes us human (duh) and that we should not shun it just because it comes with certain weaknesses.

 

Describe yourself as an Ateneo student.

I was the geeky type. I read all the time. Some books in the high school library, I read several times. It was only later in high school when I got into basketball (and was terrible at it) but my classmates formed a basketball league and I was the playing commissioner. I graduated class Salutatorian for Batch 1995 - the last batch of all-male students.

 

Describe Ateneo during your time there as a student

Ateneo was my second home. I spent more time there during my high school days. I would be there on Saturdays. All the units were in one campus, so it was a bit tight, but we really didn't mind as we had simple needs for simple times.

 

What is the best thing about being an ADZU graduate?

Being able to hate on La Salle. (Just kidding). It meant that you were educated by Jesuits who prized your intellectual gifts while at the same time embedding you with a social conscience.

Name three people from Ateneo who made an impact on you – classmates, friends, teachers, etc. and why.

  • Dr. Vincent Tan - also a graduate of 1995. We were enemies at the start, but we ended up as best friends. He was important in my cultural education. He would recommend books, music, and movies to watch.

  • Mrs. Shirley delos Santos - HS Registrar (retired) - she entrusted me with the handling of the Tourism Club which allowed me to see the many beautiful things about Zamboanga City. She was also like my second mother as she would allow me and my friends to hang around in her office and talk about our problems.

  • Ms. Geraldine Turno (former Social Studies II Teacher) - she was the moderator for ACIL for two of the three years I was a member of the organization. She also became a good friend who opened up the adult world to us.

 

Favorite teacher? Why?

Fr. Louis Catalan SJ - he was the very first teacher to encourage me to write and at the same time he encouraged all his students to learn how to think for themselves and to fight for our principles.

 

Favorite subject? Why?

It might be strange because I'm an English teacher, but I've always loved Social Studies. I like reading historical books because they stimulate my imagination of the times that were. They also gave me a better understanding of the events in our country and the world. Since I write Speculative Fiction, having a strong history background allows me to come up with what-ifs. Even my realistic stories are based on social contexts which of course would be impossible to write if I didn't invest time in history.

 

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

That having female classmates is awesome!

 

 

ADZU 15 Questions is a Q & A series with ADZU alumni. As you can already guess, alumni will be asked 15 questions about their present lives as well as their lives during their time as an ADZU student.

 

This interview was conducted by ADZU communications officer Yen Blanco-Delgado via email correspondence on June 18-19, 2015.

 

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